By Parrish Alford
They practiced football at Ole Miss on Saturday morning before fans were able to visit, take pictures and encourage players who most believe won’t comprise a very good team this fall.
It was that second scrimmage of camp, the one most important in jockeying for position on the depth chart. Players have been doing that for two weeks. This was the last best chance for them to prove to coaches they can compete.
Tobias Singleton gave up that fight last Wednesday when it was announced he had left the team and would transfer. Since then he’s landed at Jackson State.
Singleton was the second player to leave that day, but back-up offensive linemen from Arkansas don’t generate the same buzz as Mississippi All-Americans who offer verbal commitments on television after a decorated high school career.
The state of the program has been described by first-year Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze as the “wilderness.”
In such desperate times, it would seem that any high school All-American would be welcome.
Singleton’s departure was presented as his decision, but no doubt he was given a clear message regarding his state within the program.
There’s a whole lot that goes on with these players that we never see. We’re not in team meetings and other functions.
But we do see the depth chart. Depending on the coach we do see practice, and Freeze has so far had an open-door policy.
I did not see plays from Singleton this month that would have justified a higher status among his peers at wide receiver.
I didn’t see those plays in the spring when he was at running back.
Had Freeze wanted to influence Singleton to stay, he could have carved out a larger role for the player. Maybe that would have worked out in the long term, and Singleton would have reached the potential many believe he has.
Maybe he could have helped this season a program in the wilderness.
Freeze was less inclined to do that, however, as he didn’t see that Singleton had “bought in” with the coaching change. That’s very important to Freeze, as it should be.
risk and reward
In matters like this you have to weigh risk and reward, the hope that Tobias Singleton would live up to his high school resume against the chance that he remains discontent and sours those around him.
His loss isn’t necessarily addition by subtraction. It comes at a position where Freeze stated before the beginning of camp that he really needed to build depth, and the receivers were hit immediately with an injury to a starter, Collins Moore.
Even in those conditions Singleton, for whatever reason, was unable to climb the depth chart.
Now he’s getting a second chance. Hopefully it will be a successful fresh start for both him and for Jackson State.
And for Freeze as well. As much as he needs talent right now, he needs it on his terms.
Parrish Alford (parrish.alford@ journalinc.com) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily at Djournal.com.